Two grand conclusions from tonight's highly anticipated 49ers' preseason game vs. the Chiefs:
1) Jim Harbaugh was so intrigued by the Alex Smith vs. Colin Kaepernick storyline that he only played Kaepernick for one short series in Kansas City.
Apparently: Not that intrigued. And not surprising, even though it was the first time the two faced each other as starting QBs after two mightily eventful years together with the 49ers and Smith's subsequent trade to the Chiefs for two high draft picks last spring.
In case you needed to be reminded, Harbaugh likes his own storylines, not the ones that we all are concentrating on. Especially in the exhibition season.
2) But from the looks of all the drops and weak wide receiver efforts, I'd say that BOTH Smith and Kaepernick are missing the presence of Michael Crabtree right now.
While Kaepernick had the quick cameo — the 49ers got a field goal on their opening drive after Frank Gore's long run put them in scoring position — the Chiefs did as they said they'd do:
Smith played the entire first half, alternately watching his receivers drop his good passes and getting sacked when 49ers pass rushers came free at him.
And neither team's offense did much ... other than the big Gore run.
Of course, it's just August. The 49ers have barely played Kaepernick or Gore or Anquan Boldin or Vernon Davis, but yes, that offense doesn't exactly look like it's purring right now.
Still plenty of time, but the who-steps-up-for-Crabtree (other than Boldin) question remains wholly unanswered.
Meanwhile, Smith had seven series, and they went ...
- 1st series: PUNT, after two dropped passes.
(Then KC returned a kick-off for a touchdown.)
- 2nd series: PUNT, after a sack.
- 3rd series: FIELD GOAL, after taking over near midfield.
- 4th series: PUNT, after one dropped pass.
- 5th series: PUNT, after a sack.
- 6th series: FIELD GOAL, after a roughing the quarterback penalty on Tony Jerrod-Eddie.
- 7th series: END OF HALF.
Smith's stats: He was 7 of 16, for 62 yards, took 3 sacks, and had 3 obvious drops.
Generally, I thought Smith looked pretty much like he's looked since 2011 — when Mike Singletary and Whoever the Offensive Coordinator Was At the Time stopped coaching him and Harbaugh and Greg Roman started.
Flash conclusion: The Chiefs have some talent on both sides of the ball, and Smith obviously adds to it, but when they're without running back Jamaal Charles, as they were today, they don't have a lot of go-to offensive players.
Wide receiver Dwayne Bowe makes big money and I guess he was out there tonight, and I guess he was targeted once but it sure didn't look like he was getting open or that he and Smith were laser-locked and in rhythm.
Meanwhile wide receiver Jonathan Baldwin was targeted — but looked awful; he single-handedly made Nnamdi Asomugha look fast again, and I think that was more about Baldwin than about Asomugha.
Smith could really use a consistent midrange receiver—that's where Smith throws it the best and that's where Crabtree was beginning to excel last season ... obviously Crabtree was at his best once Kaepernick took over, but he was still a good wide receiver for Smith, too, in 2012.
And Smith does not have Crabtree in KC.
Oh well. One game in August. But it's a game I'm sure Smith came into with some strong motivation.
Again: Oh well. I'm eager to see how things develop by the time the Chiefs play the Raiders in mid-October.
— And on the 49ers, after Kaepernick ... Harbaugh decided to give much of the game to the Colt McCoy/Scott Tolzien battle for the backup spot, alternating them series for series into the second half.
It wasn't gorgeous football out of either guy. Certainly neither quarterback is going to heave the kind of deep pass that Kaepernick can, though McCoy's scrambling ability did look impressive tonight.
Another flash conclusion: The 49ers of course have a strong starting quarterback ... and two third-stringers. Maybe three third-stringers if you throw in B.J. Daniels, who got his first preseason quarterback work tonight.
But the 49ers aren't going to want to see any of them play extended periods during the regular season, no surprise.
They had an extremely rare situation last year with Kaepernick ready to blast off when Smith (completing 70% of his passes at the time) went down with the concussion.
You're not going to have another Kaepernick ready to go behind Kaepernick now, so the 49ers will figure out which true journeyman — McCoy or Tolzien becomes the guy who goes in if Kaepernick is dinged up during the season or worse.
I have great faith in anything Harbaugh and Roman do with their quarterbacks — they resuscitated Smith, they picked Kaepernick, they prepared him to flourish.
And now they need Kaepernick playing, probably for all 16 games and into January.